The sleepy, snow filled town of Prince George, British Columbia is the perfect setting for Derry, Maine, the creepy backdrop for Stephen King’s best selling novel Dreamcatcher which has now been turned into a $100 Million film under the guidance of director Lawrence Kasdan, the legendary writer-director whose credits include “Raiders of the Lost Ark,” The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi. It’s here, in this small country logging town, where four childhood friends are about to do battle with a strange alien being that threatens to destroy not only the town, but the world, and, more importantly, their friendship. That’s not to mention an army of crazed military men, led by Morgan Freeman, who ride into town, looking to destroy everything.
Dreamcatcher filmed for seven weeks in Prince George, beginning in January of 2002, while another ten weeks of shooting was done on various stages in Vancouver where the bitter cold of Prince George was a distant memory. The four friends from Stephen King’s epic 620 page novel are played by Thomas (Deep Blue Sea) Jane, Jason Lee, Damian Lewis and Timothy (Scream 2) Olyphant. Kasdan adapted the novel with the help of Academy Award winning screenwriter William Goldman who previously adapted King’s “Misery” in 1990. “A lot of this film plays very much like ‘Stand by Me’,” says Goldman. “The rest is a real shocker in the tradition of ‘Invasion of the Body Snatchers’.”
“Dreamcatcher” opens with the four childhood friends, long distant from each other, who gather once again at the beginning of the film to embark on an annual hunting trip deep into the woods. The men are all deeply wounded: Beav (Lee) is having some serious love problems, deep in the throes of a premature mid-life crisis; Dr. Henry Devlin (Jane), a shrink, has been seriously contemplating suicide; Pete (Olyphant) is a frustrated drunk; Jonesy (Lewis) has suffered from weird psychic visions and premonitions ever since he was hit by a car, which plays into much of Dreamcatcher’s story as we learn that all four men share an ESP bond, a gift bestowed on the friends back in school when they rescued a retarded boy named Duddits(played by Donnie Wahlberg)from being tortured by the other children. This is shown when Jane’s character, Henry, sees one of the friends get into the aforementioned car accident before it happens.
According to the Dreamcatcher cast, preparing for their roles meant, for the most part, not reading King’s massive novel and none of them did. “I felt like I’d rather read a 120 page script as opposed to King’s 600 page novel. I didn’t want to be confused by what the book says and what the director says,” says Lee. “I play Beav, Joe Clarendon, and he’s kind of slow, but he’s a really bighearted man and I’ve made myself look like Buddy Holly in the film by wearing thick glasses and keeping a toothpick in my mouth at all times. This film is really weird with all of these aliens invading people’s bodies and everything, but deep down, it has a lot of humanity, like ‘Stand by Me’, and that’s because Larry Kasdan’s an actor’s director.”
The four friends make a horrifying discovery on their journey in the woods: an old stranger arrives upon the scene, his body exploding with disgusting space aliens that kind of resemble slimy moray eels with their open mouths revealing nests of teeth. Soon, the “alien body snatchers” start to turn the humans into zombies and it’s up to the friends to fight not only their own possession, but also their own inner demons. A powerful blizzard adds even more tension to the story. “I’ve been really anxious to do another big effects film,” says Kasdan. “I wrote a bunch, but it wasn’t until I read Stephen’s book that I knew this was the one. I love the way “Dreamcatcher” opens itself up to lots of big special effects and scary creatures and spaceships. At its heart though, it’s really a relationship film and I think the four actors are all great. Damian Lewis is someone I’d seen in “Band of Brothers” and he does a great job of playing Jonesy, the soulful center of the group of friends. He’s a nice college professor who has all of these scary things happen around him and then his body gets taken over by the aliens, so it’s fun for me to watch him play these different characters all in one body because he has to do battle with himself and some of the scenes are kind of funny.”
Kasdan loved collaborating with Goldman on the Dreamcatcher script and he especially loved working with Morgan Freeman who plays Colonel Abraham Curtis, the film’s chief villain. “Bill Goldman and I have been friends for years,” says Kasdan. “The big thing for me was that he’d successfully adapted Stephen King before. I basically told Bill that I was going to write the final draft of the script and he was cool with that. Most directors write their own shooting scripts because, as a director, you have to make it your own script before you start shooting.” In 2000, prior to finishing the novel, Stephen King traveled to a water filtration plant, near Boston, to do research on how alien spores could possibly contaminate people, an example of the ambition and scope that King put into this epic work, one of his longest published works since The Stand.”
Get the rest of the story in part two of “DREAMCATCHER”: CATCHING STEPHEN KING>>>
Posted on March 26, 2003 in Interviews by David Grove
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